I had a nice weekend. Did you have a good weekend? I did. It was my baby brother's 40th birthday on Friday and he had a party. Here. He hired the entire youth hostel for the weekend and that was a stroke of genius. True, a hotel would not have required its guests to bring their own food and towels, or to make their own beds and strip them again before leaving, and it certainly would not have required us to tidy up and take three tons of bottles out to the recycling. And hoover! (I mean, I don't hoover my own house!)
But - and it's a big but - nor would a hotel have let a horde of a dozen or more children of varying ages rampage through its halls, screaming fit to burst as they charged up and down the stairs playing monsters. Come to think of it a hotel would probably have objected to my aunt's rendition of The Proclaimers' "500 miles" at 4am too.
Everyone had a great time. Because this was a youth hostel, the furniture and fittings and carpets were tough and utilitarian rather than fragile and valuable so all the parents (and nearly all of us were parents!) could relax and let the children run around in a feral pack, secure in the knowledge that it was unlikely they could do much damage. The children reciprocated by thoroughly enjoying their freedom and NOT FIGHTING. Honestly, loads of them and not a fight to be seen. Astonishing. Maybe this little-known side effect is what explains the attraction of communes.
It was lovely to see so many family members that I hadn't caught up with for ages, including my little cousin who came with me into Galashiels in search of chips for the masses. She went off to Haddows to buy a couple of bottles of wine (we are posh - red wine with chips) but came back empty handed. She had been asked for ID and because she didn't have any, had been refused service. She's 30. She was equal parts furious and chuffed. My other aunt (not the cabaret star mentioned above) had to go in and buy it for her. It's a long, long time since I had to get a grown up to go in and buy booze for me and I'm pretty sure when I last did, it wasn't a couple of bottles of a nice Californian Shiraz!
I drove the aunt and cousin back to the hostel, effortlessly navigating the unfamiliar streets of Galashiels with only one trip the wrong way up a one-way street and a little detour on the road home. Well, not so much a detour, because a detour involves taking a longer route than one intended. What's the opposite of a detour? Because whatever it is, that's what I did. My relatives insisted on describing it as driving at speed right over the top of a roundabout. I prefer to think of it simply as single-minded directness in the pursuit of getting the white pudding suppers back while they were still hot. (And that bruise on my cousin's head where she bounced off the roof of the car will heal in time, after all.)
There was much laughing and dancing and chatting and eating (fried breakfast! two days running!) and reminiscing as of course, many of my brother's friends were around as I was growing up in a small West Lothian village and we all know many of the same people and the same stories. My brother of course came in for more than his fair share of ribbing. His friends and I were swapping stories of his prowess in various arenas, from downing a pint of beer in 2.6 seconds to eating a whole box of Mr Kipling's French Fancies in one sitting and his piece de resistance, laughing while eating dinner and snorting a chip out of his nose. Class act, my little brother.
I still can't quite believe that my little toerag of a brother is the grown up, slightly bald, otherwise greying father of two who was singing Knocking on Heaven's Door really badly in front of an ecstatic (read: inebriated) lighter-waving crowd on Saturday night. Great fun. Happy 40th birthday, little brother.